Food Law News - UK - 2006

FSA Local Authority Letter (ENF/E/16/044 (update)),13 October 2006

HYGIENE - Gathering important information about ‘cheese recovery' operations in the UK

My colleague Tim Foster wrote to Heads of Environmental Health Services (England), Chief Port Health Officers (England) and Directors of Trading Standards (England) on 3 July (letter ENF/E/06/44) requesting information on any cheese “recovery” operations in your areas.

We are grateful for the 117 responses we have received; however these unfortunately do not provide us with a full picture of cheese recovery operations across the country. I am therefore writing to seek your further help in this matter.

You may have picked up on the extensive media coverage of developments following an FVO audit involving the UK dairy sector in May/June this year. We have been notified that the FVO will return between 20 and 28 November to conduct a full audit in the UK dairy sector. It is important that we are well prepared for this (see ENF/E/06/064)

One of the establishments visited during that first mission was undertaking cheese recovery operations of which the FVO disapproved on the basis that they were not approved and unhygienic and therefore illegal. These allegedly included the collection of floor sweepings containing foreign matter which were sent for further processing. All cheese recovery operations were immediately stopped and the company advised that they would need to apply for approval if they wanted to undertake cheese recovery operations. The FSA considers the further use in the food chain of contaminated floor sweepings to be wholly unacceptable. This applies regardless of any further processing to which the sweepings may be subjected.

It is imperative that we are able to demonstrate to the FVO that we know the full extent of cheese recovery in the UK, the nature of the activities undertaken, and that we have taken action (for example on contaminated floor sweepings) where appropriate. Could I please request that you take urgent steps to arrange communication of the necessary information from those who have not already replied. Can I please stress that nil returns (ie that there are no cheese recovery operations in your area) are equally important in completing the picture.

It appears from the 117 responses we have received that the recovery of floor sweepings is not uncommon. For those of you reporting (or about to report) the further use of floor sweepings in the food chain, can I please request you to take urgent action to ensure that these activities are stopped. We can expect the FVO to focus on this area when they return. It follows that appropriate traceability of raw materials, products and waste by businesses undertaking cheese recovery will be a key point of investigation by the FVO. Where action is undertaken, could I also ask that the Dairy Hygiene Branch is notified as soon as possible. Links to the earlier communications from the Food Standards Agency are included.

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